Years ago one of my most frustrating brick walls was my great-great grandmother, Margaret Deatherage Swain. It seemed impossible that someone who died so "recently" could be so difficult to discover. Census records didn't match with ages, and without consistency to Deatherage family residences, it was difficult for my inexperienced self to find her family. I stumbled upon a lead on a website by Mr. Ric Tobin, who has done extensive research on the Deatherage family, even publishing a book entitled "The Deatherage Family: The First Four Generations in America." Through correspondence we figured out where she fit in the Deatherage chain (For more of the details here is the post describing how we came to this conclusion How I linked Margaret Deatherage to her Parents).
Although we had a lot of circumstantial evidence I wouldn't say any of it was hard fact, and frankly, I was just so happy to have her linked to a family with the information I did have that I didn't try any harder to find the concrete evidence to support the link. It's been nearly 10 years since that "breakthrough". Today I was just cleaning up my Deatherage files and decided to run a search for the father I linked her to, J.M. Deatherage, just to see if any "new" information could be found on him.
I found the typical census records that I already had (from the help of Mr. Tobin), but reviewed them again anyway. The key find wasn't Mr. Detherage's marriage record, but a marriage record of a J.M. Deatherage, his son, and the brother of Margaret. This is the brother who also went to Parker, TX (and died in Parker, TX) like my great-great grandfather, Milus Swain. When I looked at this marriage certificate, I found the evidence I needed! Surprisingly, on this marriage record of J M Deatherage to N E Dancer from McNairy, TN my great-great grandfather, Milus Swain, is written as the witness to this marriage.
Although I felt confident in the relationship I had put together previously, this documents puts my mind at ease and provides solid support that Margaret Deatherage, the sister of J.M. Deatherage, and the child of J.M. Deatherage Sr is the Margaret Deatherage who married Milus Swain, my great-great grandfather.
Patience is one of the most frustrating aspects of family history work. When I get to brick walls and feel I've exhausted research avenues, I have to move on to a different family to keep myself motivated. Every once in a while I'll come back to my brick wall and do a quick search to see if I can find any new information. Inevitably, with all the new online resources available, something new will show up that adds more clues to help me piece the puzzle together.
Who needs a Facebook Crime Scene Game? I've got plenty of mystery in my family history as I look for real clues about real people. Unfortunately, patience is one of the keys to figuring it all out. I have been surprised over and over again how records find their way to me, a lot later than I sometimes hope, but they come at just the right time to motivate me and help me understand how my family fits in history.